Fringe Box



Deputy Leader Admits SCC Does Not Support Wisley Garden Village Proposal

Published on: 4 Mar, 2019
Updated on: 6 Mar, 2019

The legitimacy of a letter from the former leader of Surrey County Council (SCC) to the leader of Guildford Borough Council (GBC) supporting the borough’s bid for a Garden Village at Wisley, has been called into doubt after SCC’s deputy leader admitted it should not be read as support for the planning application.

See also: ‘SCC Does Not Support’ Headline Misleading

Cllr David Hodge, who has since retired as SCC leader, wrote to Cllr Paul Spooner at GBC on October 30, 2018 saying: “I write to you to support the Garden Village submission made by Guildford Borough Council to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.”

He went on to focus on seven “benefits to the local” area resulting from the proposal, including affordable homes and job creation, and concluded that GBC’s submission was “strongly supported” by SCC.

Cllr Colin Kemp

But after a meeting on February 11, 2019 with Ockham Parish Council, SCC’s deputy leader, Cllr Colin Kemp, wrote to “apologise for the distress” caused by Cllr Hodge’s letter.

“The letter was requested by Guildford Borough Council purely to support their bid to the Department for extra funding to process the application,” Cllr Kemp said. “It is not for the County Council to strongly support planning applications and you may take this letter as confirmation this was not the intent.”

Ockham Parish Council (OPC) wrote to Cllr Hodge on December 3, 2018 asking for clarification on several issues, including why Mr Hodge had not consulted with OPC before writing the offending letter, why he considered the scheme to be locally led, and why SCC had reversed its green belt policy.

But Cllr Hodge resigned before the end of the year and, while promising to respond to OPC, failed to do so.

At the meeting with OPC, Cllr Kemp was specifically asked what due diligence had been done before Cllr Hodge sent the letter to Cllr Spooner.  Cllr Kemp said: “In terms of due diligence, I know Cllr Hodge would have put a lot of thought into agreeing the letter, and in addition to him no longer being leader or even a councillor, the senior officer he contacted to seek her view is no longer employed by SCC so, regrettably, I have been unable to get her take on the letter.”

Dr Claire Travers

Dr Claire Travers, chair of OPC, said that she was appalled at the absence of any record of due diligence by SCC.

“Putting in ‘a lot of thought’ is no substitute for due diligence and responsible governance and the fact that there appears to be no paper trail of procedure following the departure of the leader and a senior officer, is totally unacceptable,” she said.

OPC will now seek further clarification through a Freedom of Information request.

Dr Travers said she had been surprised and concerned that Cllr Kemp appeared to think Cllr Hodge’s description of the proposals as “locally led” in his letter, meant that GBC was the local element.

“There can be little doubt that anyone reading Cllr Hodge’s letter to Cllr Spooner would have regarded it as unequivocal support for the garden village bid,” said Dr Travers.  “And that will have been the message to the Secretary of State, which is why we have asked for the letter to be withdrawn.”

Cllr Kemp has said that he was unable to do so as it was already in the public domain but that his letter to OPC would be sent to GBC to clarify SCC’s position.

Dr Travers said: “OPC’s challenge to SCC for clarity on its letter of support for a garden village at Wisley has revealed a catalogue of incompetence and we intend to investigate further with special reference to the level of due diligence before the offending letter of support was issued.”

See also: Parish Council Challenges SCC Over Support for Garden Village

The letters in full…


The letter sent by David Hodge before his departure as SCC leader, to Paul Spooner, leader of GBC.

Letter from Dr Travers, chair of Ockham Parish Council to Cllr Kemp, deputy leader SCC.


Reply from Colin Kemp to Dr Travers



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Responses to Deputy Leader Admits SCC Does Not Support Wisley Garden Village Proposal

  1. Colin Cross Reply

    March 4, 2019 at 12:42 pm

    Surely, if the offending SCC letter is in the public domain that is all the more reason to withdraw it? The corollary being that if the letter was not already in the public domain then there would be no need to withdraw it, would there?

    Methinks Cllr Kemp doth protest too much. He should do the right thing without further procrastination and publically disown and withdraw it on behalf of SCC.

  2. Tony Edwards Reply

    March 4, 2019 at 1:34 pm

    Cllr Kemp admits that Surrey County Council’s letter of support for a Garden Village at Wisley should not be seen as supporting the planning application. Indeed he says that it is not for the county council to support any planning applications – in which case, he should withdraw the offending letter at once.

    The fact that it is in the public domain is no excuse to leave it there and Guildford Borough Council, which requested the letter in the first place, should advise the Secretary of State that Surrey County Council does not support the project.

    Tony Edwards is a spokesman for Wisley Action Group

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